Can DeSantis Overtake Trump?

By Jim Ellis — Tuesday, July 18, 2023


Former President Donald Trump; Florida Gov. Ron
Desantis (R)

Polling: DeSantis vs. Trump — A series of flash polls taken in June and early July within 13 states provides us a glimpse into the path Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has ahead of him if he is to wrest the Republican presidential nomination away from former President Donald Trump. In summary, the deficit may be too large to overcome.

National polls have for weeks shown Trump holding huge leads over his GOP opponents, but these national surveys are virtually meaningless since the race will be determined in the state-by-state count. The winner must secure 1,234 pledged delegate votes from the 56 voting entities to clinch the party nomination.

The recent polling from the 13 states yields a combined 944 delegates, or 38.3 percent of the total Republican universe. The tallies come from 11 different pollsters during the period beginning June 5 and ending July 6.

Cumulatively, Trump would command a combined 47.4 percent support from these places, slightly less than he is showing nationally. Gov. DeSantis is so far recording 21.2 percent, and no other candidate even reaches five percent support. Therefore, the Florida governor must more than double his support base if he is to surpass Trump’s advantage.

Included in these 13 states are eight places where voters will cast their ballots on Super Tuesday, March 5, or before. The eight states are, in voting order: Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina, California, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas. Of the pre-Super Tuesday states, only Michigan is not included.

In the early states, Trump’s margin, according to the latest available polling data, is actually an even larger 55-22 percent over Gov. DeSantis, with 23 percent choosing one of the seven minor candidates. Therefore, the Trump lead in the critical momentum building early states is larger than in the at-large universe, thus making DeSantis’s task even more difficult.

In addition to the eight early states mentioned above, the remaining tested domains, again in voting order, are Florida, Ohio, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Montana. Of the 13, DeSantis’ strongest state is Wisconsin, where the Marquette University Law School survey, a frequent Badger State pollster, finds the Florida governor trailing Trump by just one percentage point.

The state will the largest chasm between the two men is Tennessee, where the Targoz Market Research survey finds a Trump margin of 61-12 percent. Perhaps most troubling to Gov. DeSantis is his most recent showing in his own home state of Florida. The latest Florida Atlantic University study that concluded on July 1 reveals a 50-30 percent margin in Trump’s favor.

This poll, however, may be an anomaly because no other data has shown such a large disparity. Since the beginning of May, one other research study finds Trump ahead by eight percentage points, while two more see a virtually even split between Trump and DeSantis. Still, for Trump to be doing this well in Gov. DeSantis’ home state is telling as to the strength of the former President’s national advantage.

While serious campaigning is just now getting underway, much can change between the present circumstances and the eventual outcome. With Iowa now moving their precinct caucuses from an original date of Feb. 5 to Jan. 15, the nomination campaign season grows even shorter.

For Gov. DeSantis, or any of the minor candidates to make a serious run at former President Trump, the activity pace will have to significantly quicken, and their momentum will need an abrupt about face.

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